A meeting between top White House and House staffers this afternoon failed to bridge the impasse over Republicans’ “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe, Congressional and administration sources said.
White House officials, including counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors, reiterated an offer made last week by Attorney General Eric Holder but also allowed Republican staffers a brief glimpse at a small subset of documents at issue.
The deal would provide Republicans an “illustrative sample” of a key category of documents, as well as a briefing about those documents, if House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) agreed to stop pursuing compliance with two Congressional subpoenas that he issued eight months ago.
“This was a good faith effort to try to reach an accommodation while still protecting the institutional prerogatives of the executive branch, often championed by these same Republicans criticizing us right now. Unfortunately, Republicans have opted for political theater rather than conduct legitimate Congressional oversight,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.
After aides brought the offer back to the Hill for their bosses to consider, Republicans said the offer was unacceptable, adding that they can’t agree to the terms without first seeing the documents at issue.
In the meeting, White House officials allowed some review of a binder of 14 documents of about 30 pages in length, asking Republicans not to publicly discuss their contents. Staffers for Issa, Speaker John Boehner and the Justice Department were present.
The documents at issue are internal communications sent after the Justice Department sent a Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) broadly denying that the tactics at the heart of the “Fast and Furious” operation were ever used.
In December 2011, the department conceded that the operation was “fundamentally flawed” and rescinded the letter, as well as provided internal communications from the period during which the letter was drafted.
Issa has said that internal communications from after the letter was drafted and sent are key to understanding how senior DOJ officials realized the February 2011 letter was false, including whether officials were surprised to learn the tactics had been used.
At the White House meeting today, a House staffer asked whether the Justice Department could provide a detailed log of which documents are being withheld, but White House officials said providing such a log was “entirely off the table,” the Congressional source said.
The meeting was initiated by the White House, which contacted Boehner’s office. Boehner insisted Issa’s staff be present for the talks, the Congressional source said.
An administration official familiar with the meeting said Republicans would not allow Congressional Democrats to participate, so White House aides conducted a separate briefing for the staff of Oversight ranking member Elijah Cummings (Md.) while the other meeting was taking place.